Sports

Big Beal

As they head for home, Wizards leave Chicago 
in a hole

CHICAGO BULLS 99

WASHINGTON WIZARDS 101

  • Washington lead series 2-0

Just when the Chicago Bulls thought they were about to tie up the Washington Wizards, in a flash everything changed.

Bradley Beal turned on the afterburners to score a game-high 26 points and spark Washington over Chicago 101-99 in overtime yesterday morning (Singapore time), giving the Wizards their best NBA play-off start in 32 years.

Brazilian forward Nene scored 17 points and John Wall added 16 as the Wizards seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series, with games three and four in Washington on Saturday and Monday (both Singapore times).

"We still feel like we have to be humble," Beal said. "We are up 2-0 but we need to feel like we're 1-0. We just have to have a sense of urgency coming home and protect our home court."

It's the first time in franchise history that Washington have won the first two games on the road to open a series and the first time since 1982 they won the first two games in a play-off series.

Twenty-four hours after the Bulls' Joakim Noah was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the hosts' bid to level the series failed because they could not stop 20-year-old guard Beal.

AGGRESSIVE

"He made some big shots for us," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. "He was confident for us. He stayed aggressive even through misses. Bradley made some big plays for us coming down the stretch."

The Wizards led by as many as 17 points but the Bulls outscored them 26-14 in the third quarter and stretched their edge to as big as 87-77 in the fourth quarter. But Washington ended the fourth quarter on a 14-4 run, tying on a Beal free throw to force overtime.

Chicago managed only two baskets over more than 10 minutes, missing 12 shots in a row and falling behind 97-91 in the extra period before battling back.

Noah made two free throws with 34 seconds left to trim the score to the final margin. A Beal miss gave Chicago the ball and Nene fouled Kirk Hinrich with 2.4 seconds remaining.

But Hinrich missed the first free throw and then deliberately missed the second, hoping to grab a rebound and make a tying basket. Instead, the Wizards got the ball and ran out the clock.

"It was a great team effort," Beal said. "We did a great job sticking with them and we got a great win."

D.J. Augustin came off the bench to lead Chicago with 25 points while reserve Taj Gibson added 22 and Noah had 20 and 12 rebounds.

Beal, who scored 11 in the fourth after quiet second and third quarters, was the star man, but he said: "I can't take a lot of credit for the fourth quarter. I think we got a lot of offensive rebounds and kickouts, and John hit me on a couple. I was fortunate to be able to knock down some, and I just stayed with it." - AFP.

Other first-round results 
(all series best-of-seven):

Eastern Conference

  • Indiana Pacers 101 Atlanta Hawks 85 
(series level 1-1)
  • Toronto Raptors 100 Brooklyn Nets 95 
(series level 1-1)